Pearl pigments have a wide range of applications. In particular, pearl pigment paints have become quite popular. Ever wondered how pearl pigments are made? Different manufacturers have might different production processes, but the technology and science behind pearl pigments are the same.
The shimmer produced by pearl pigments is thanks to refraction. It happens when two adjacent surfaces have different refractive indexes. In the production of pearl pigments, this is achieved by adding a coating of metal oxide to natural silica.
Mineral mica occurs naturally in the earth. It is an inorganic pigment that has is produced by natural processes. Some of the mica already has some color and shimmer at the time of extraction. It usually has traces of iron oxide attached to it. In most cases, mineral mica needs to be processed to enhance the color and the luster.
To achieve the pearlescent effect, the mica is passed through a precipitation process. It will first be cleaned and grounded into fine particles. The precipitation process coats the particles in one or several metal oxides depending on the color needed. Titanium oxide is commonly used.
The result is fine particles of a specific color that uniquely interact with light. The light interference effect is what produces the shimmer and the distinct contrasts. The color depends on the thickness of the metal oxide coating.
Manufacturers who do not have mineral mica can artificially produce their own transparent substrates.
Artificial Substrates are produced using synthetic metal oxides. Aluminum oxide, calcium aluminum borosilicate, and silicon dioxide are commonly used. The substrates produced are transparent and have the same properties as mineral mica.
The substrates are then taken through the same process we’ve outlined above so that they can have a specific color and shimmer. Pearl pigments produced from synthetic substrates can achieve better color and luster effects as compared to those produced from mineral mica.
Which one should you go for?
Pearl pigments produced from artificial substrates are considered to be the best. They have bright colors and more shimmer. They are expensive as compared to their mineral mica counterparts. Although there are no documented health effects, exposure to dust from synthetic substrates is not advisable.
Mineral mica pearl pigments are less expensive. They are still colorful and bright, but not as much as their synthetic counterparts. They are also less likely to cause any harmful effect if they are ingested. You should experiment with both to find out which one works best for you.